Major grant promises major change for Durant

A $500,000 match grant for a stormwater wetlands and drainage project will help the environment and the city


The City of Durant has secured a $500,000 match grant for a stormwater wetlands and drainage project that could ultimately bring in housing opportunities.

The grant is courtesy of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, or IDALS for short, which focuses on land stewardship practices across the state.

“The truth is, it’s hard to develop the land,” says Dawn Smith, Community Economic Development Director for Durant. “This has been a series of steps.”

Durant, like many other communities in Iowa, needs housing. However, much of the land surrounding the city is in the flood plain, making it difficult to develop.

The solution: use a portion of land owned by the city located on Cedar Scott Road, by the water tower, to build a stormwater retention/filtration system with the grant money.

The retention ponds will slowly drain into a swale, a shallow, broad and vegetated channel designed to store and/or convey runoff and remove pollutants. 

“Basically, the money will be used for cleaning up the water,” says Smith.

Any chemicals and other contaminants from farmland and developed land would go through these stormwater wetlands before being dumped into Mud Creek.

It will also slow down the water, which would slow the erosion of the creek’s banks. As a part of the Lower Cedar Watershed, any runoff that finds its way into Mud Creek eventually drains into the Cedar River, and eventually the Mississippi.

This project will both reduce pollutants in the creek, as well as open up land in the flood plain for development. The end goal: more housing for more families and a cleaner environment.

“In order to build a subdivision, we have to have a place for all that water to go,” says Director Smith. “The subdivision has 23 lots and an area for condos or apartments.”

Those lots can be used to build housing. However, to be clear, the grant will not go towards the housing, but to the development of the stormwater wetland project.

“It is directly to take care of stormwater. The swales, the stormwater wetland, and all of that is what this grant will be going towards,” clarifies Smith.

It’s a huge boon for the City of Durant. The land in question was originally going to be used for development 10 years ago, but the owner at the time ran into major costs related to stormwater.

The city purchased the 10.8 acres from Developer MAJIK Properties LLC in December of 2022. That was around the time it first applied for the IDALS grant.

In spring of 2023 Dennis and Deb Edwards donated 2.17 more connecting acres while IGW Trust donated .7 acres to complete the project.

In 2024 the city won its second bid for funding, a $500,000 prize. Since it’s a match grant, it will require another $500,000, meaning $1 million towards the project.

“This is the second go around,” says Director Smith, stating the city was originally turned down for the grant because of the cost of the project.

“So, we went back and sharpened our pencils and were able to get it down where it needed to be,” she says. “So, we applied again, and we got it.”

And yes, this is the largest grant Smith has ever secured. “Oh yes, it’s the biggest one by a long shot,” she says. “$500,000 is a big grant, it’s something we needed.”

“In order to get the housing, we have to do this project, and in order to do this project I had to do the grant, so everything has been in steps,” she explains.

So, how does the city plan to match it?

The City of Durant has borrowed funds to help match it; however, Director Smith is still working on securing other grants and donations to help offset the cost.

“The reason we do this is for any future development we will have for the city of Durant, because we’re pretty much landlocked because of flood plains.”

Basically, it’s expensive for developers to build infrastructure, which can be cost prohibitive to development. So, if the city can assist with the stormwater, it benefits everyone.

The State of Iowa receives funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to invest back into Iowa through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).

As the project moves forward Durant will need to follow any guidelines or suggestions put forward by IDALS, since it is the provider of the grant.

Right now, the city is in communication with IDALS about the path forward. It will soon begin the bidding process for construction.

One thing is clear, any homes created as a result from the wetland and drainage project will go like hotcakes.

“I mean, a lot of those lots have already been spoken for, and I don’t even have an approved plat,” she admits.

A plat shows how a tract of land will be divided. The city is working on the Sunset Farms Preliminary Plat for the area, but it’s just that, preliminary.

Right now, the emphasis is on using the grant to fund the stormwater wetlands and drainage project, which will help our environment as well as the benefit of opening Durant to bigger and better development.

The drainage project will help bring back the fish life and native plants that once thrived in Mud Creek. It is a conservation project after all.

The cities of Walcott, Stockton, Durant and Wilton are adjacent to Mud Creek and have a combined population of over 5,500.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Water Quality Bureau, 90 percent of the land in the Mud Creek watershed is privately owned and is in agricultural production.

Because of this, Mud Creek bank conditions and water quality is generally rated as poor or fair.

According to monitoring data collected as part of Iowa's volunteer-based water monitoring program, Mud Creek has various stream attributes that may be of concern.

Those attributes include low to high phosphorous, normal to high dissolved oxygen, normal to high nitrates and low to normal chlorides.

The series of retention ponds draining into a swale that will be built due to the grant will reduce runoff and remove pollutants from Durant and surrounding Ag land to the creek.

It won’t solve all the problems, but it’s a good start for Mud Creek and the Lower Cedar Watershed. Afterall, true conservation is a series of small steps leading to a greater result.

stormwater, wetlands, grant